Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Coffee Farmers

Today's blog is about the coffee farmers. I will not talk about their working conditions, i will not talk about their poverty, their plight, the problems facing them, i will not talk about their exploitation or why they striked, i will simply talk about my people; because that is what they are.

A few days ago, someone sent me an email with simply one line ''Warum machen Sie sowas?'' (why are you doing this?). To someone like me who grew up in an English speaking country, this might sound outright rude. I kept thinking for days, had i misunderstood his question? or was it just the german bluntness? ;) and he had no ill motives behind his one lined question?
To answer his question i decided to write this article, less i misunderstood / misjudged his question and not only for him but for all the ''coffee people'' out there.

First, it’s important to realize that coffee is a globally traded commodity just like oil. Actually, coffee is the second-most traded commodity with oil being the first. However, for many of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers, coffee is a labour intensive crop that frequently yields very little financial return. 
To fully understand how the pricing of coffee works, one needs to know the Coffee Price Economics.What variables drive up and down the coffee prices?- this is where my Macroeconomics text book written by Japheth Osotsi Awiti from the School of Economics at the UON comes in handy! Anyway today is not the day for coffee economics lessons.- for that class i would need you guys packed and ready with your big mugs of caffein-laden concotions.
But because i understand these variables, and some of them are speculations or 'unexpected factors' (this is where the Key to everything lies), thats why i do what i do.....

Back to my people; Anyone who is my age or plus or minus 10, and comes from a coffee growing community grew up picking coffee. It was all we did, if we wasnt busy slidding on the muddy gullies of River Chania, or planning our next excursion to the nieghbour's Quava and Mango farms.
We picked the cherries come rain or sunshine! we qued for endless hours at the delivery stations or at the mills, to have our black gold weighed and graded after hours of back-aching hand sorting process. But we waited and endured because we knew that the coffee despite all the struggles we had, somehow paid for our school fees ( even if it meant being sent home for half of the term), it put meals on our tables- even if it was the traditional ration of 96% dry maize and 4 % beans with the Muhika leaves that grew wildly and our mothers picked on the coffee fields-at the same time picking coffee.

And then, we grew up...and most of us left for the big City, armed with hope and determination to change the poverty situation among our families back in the village, and we left our parents and the rest of the siblings picking coffee......

So many things have changed since me and my agemates grew up ...the Republic of Kenya got a new constitution, and powers were devolved to county levels which saw a lot of rapid and in some cases misguided changes in the coffee sector, but what happened to the coffee farmers?...

my father planting new coffee seedlings in march 2013

Many of them grew old and could not continue tending their coffee farms, many of them felled down their coffee trees and simply continued with subsistence farming of maize and beans, many of their children dropped from school for lack of school fees, and me and my agemates who were lucky enough to leave the villages left and some of us swore never to step our feet back to those god forsaken coffee fields! and those who remained had no hope of ever coming out....and some of them held on hope that one day all will be fine, they continued toiling on the coffee fields from dawn to dusk... .thats is what happened to the coffee farmers and their families.

And you ask why i do what i do? i do it because i know only too well the challenges faced by these communities, i do it because we are not a charity organisation walking around in Europe with photos of poor african children with mucus running down their noses to beg for your hard earned money!, i do it because i believe the economic sustainability of the coffee producers begins when they are given the business tools and knowledge resources to make a livable income, i do it because with this journey i will secure the future of my village for generations to come.......

And to the Importers and Roasters who somehow found it in their hearts to boycott buying the coffee of my people this season simply because it was not going through their favourite Exporter, i want you to remember my coffee farmers, i want you to simply forget the politics involved ..i want you to have those farmers in mind when you make your decisions...let those farmers THRIVE.......

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Henstedt Ulzburg Project Coffee is now in Real

Having spent the whole day with the pupils from Hartenhoolm Primary School ( thats another blog altogether) i headed to the Real Supermarket in Henstedt -Uzburg where one of our project coffees had just been listed. I needed to remind the community of this small town in the north of Germany that our coffees were / are not just coffees...our coffees have a story to tell and we can trace our coffees back to the small village farms back in the country of my birth, where it was us coffee is the future of my people. We know the names of our coffee producers, we know how many children each of them have, we get to know when their homes ''smell onions'' (insert a big loud laugh) as my brother Zackie calls see, all of them are my family.I played with their kids on the gullies near the Chania River....we qued together at night at the coffee milling stations to deliver our produce..our parents still toil the land together....

The Henstedt-Ulzburg coffee is one of the Project Coffees that we have available in the German market.We create partnerships between our coffee producing communities in Nyeri Kenya and the coffee consuming communities in Germany.We believe in TRADE and not AID for the development of Africa....thats is the only way my people can learn, thrive and grow towards self-reliance.
When we opened our doors a year ago, we believed in Partnerships and Transparency...Our story is real, share our story..

And of course my Partner, whom me and my people will always be grateful to, the one person whom and his daughter are now part of our Kedovo ; Chania family was there to share the moment and spend the afternoon with me, Mr Heinz Papenhagen of Sandtorkai HandelPapenhagen.I still remember the day we met....its the day the wheels of change turned for the coffee growing communities of the Mt Kenya and Aberdare mountains.....i will give you the story about that day one day..( it was one of those ''bad hair days'' and bad weather days in the town of cold churches ;)

with Partner Heinz Papenhagen
 This ''super lecker kaffee '' as my German friend Stefan calls it, is roasted by our Connie of the De Koffieman Roastery in Lilienthal.Its available as Ground coffee and Crema whole beans. The coffee is available on sale at the Henstedt Ulzburg Real Supermarket, Edeka Markt in HU, The Shell Petrol station in Henstedt-Rhein and at the Rahmer Bookshop on the main steet in Henstedt-Ulzburg.

With these steps, we know now and my community now believes everything is possible....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dispatch from Wilstedt

So today i headed to Wilstedt in the wee hours of the morning after 2 strong cups of Chania Coffee

Wilstedt is a municipality in the district of Rotenburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany.

I was to spend the day with two of the people who whole heartedly support our work ; Nicole Boedtger of Sandtorkai Handel Papenhagen and Cornelia (Connie) Dotschat of De Koffiemann Roastery.

These two amazing women understand that i do not just sell coffee but that my mission and vision is to make sure that my coffee producing community take control of their lives through a sustainable model that fuels the money back to these communities and stimulate growth out of poverty.

Both of them understand that we do not need to conduct various ''researches'' or whatever in the coffee sector- we simply want to do an alternative form of trade that has the power to revolutionize the economy and income of these communities as well as illustrate that  our partnership can work together to provide a tangible difference in many farmers lives... 

''Women Power''

We spent the day at '' Die Olivenöl-Abholage 2014 Messe'' doing what we know best- Selling cofffee.

There is no better day or gift than spending it with somoene who understands my community's efforts behind every bean of coffee that we import.

And we sold...knowing that every packet we sold, every cent we made was/ is a tangible ''investment'' in a far off remote village nestled on the slopes of Mt Kenya and The Aberdares...the village of my people, the village where i was born.

I continue with my journey, a journey that will secure the future of my village for generations to come.

For all our Kenyan coffee lovers, you can buy this great coffee roasted by Connie either by dropping at her Roastery in Lilienthal or by ordering online at her E-shop De Koffieman- hashtag Kenya.

Tomorrow, we get ready to close the deal on the shipping our second container this year...there is more than hope.

Signed Soni.